Writer’s note: Tattooing has been done for centuries for a variety of reasons. Some cultures tattooed for religious reasons; others for branding, healing or punishment. In other cultures, tattoos signified societal status or were obtained as living souvenirs of visits to foreign lands. Also, once thought of as related to gang membership or prison time served, the art form has become more mainstream only in recent decades.

According to the website History of Tattoos, US citizens now spend 1.65 billion dollars annually at 20,000 plus tattoo parlors around the country. A few other statistics: 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo, and 30 percent of all US college graduates have tattoos. Of those looking to get inked, 43 percent want a tattoo with a personal meaning.

That desire to tell a personal story in a permanent manner is the focus of this series. If there’s a special story behind your ink, please contact Ellen at ellenmccroskey@comcast.net for possible inclusion in upcoming posts.

Local residents likely know Lindsay Schooler best as the proprietor of Wheeling’s Happy Goat Yoga studio where she teaches yogis to honor the divine in themselves and others. Lindsay’s own spiritual journey to this point has been a distinctly personal one that she has mindfully chosen to memorialize with 13 unique and meaningful tattoos on the sacred canvas of her body.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Lindsay has artwork tattooed on many different areas of her body. “I chose to document my personal journey in places where the art felt good to me,” she reveals.

Lindsay began her collection at the age of 18 when tattoo artist Scott White, then employed by Hot Rod Tattooing in Martins Ferry, inked a multicolored sun on her spine. Scott and his wife Hannah Aitchison of LA Ink fame now operate Curiosity Shop Tattoo in Pittsburgh.

Lindsay had a second tattoo done while she was a student at Marshall University — a heart that lacked the quality and meaning that she desired and that she later felt moved to hide. She returned to Scott, who expertly covered her second tat with her third one.

This time, she chose to honor the place where she was born and raised by having the state of West Virginia added to her growing collection. Lindsay has since traveled far and wide and says she’s yet to find another locale that is so beloved by its citizens. The devotion that most West Virginians display for their piece of “Almost Heaven” is an oddity that she has not found anywhere but here.

Tattoos adorn much of Lindsay’s back and torso.

This realization confirmed to Lindsay that her Mountain State tattoo was meant to be; the fact that there’s now a hidden heart under the shape of her home state adds another layer of significance. For if you’re a Mountaineer, this state and your heart are forever entwined.

For some time, Lindsay herself worked at Hot Rod. “In the front of the shop!” she emphasizes. Through her work there, she became even more intrigued by the ancient art form and the philosophy behind it.

“It’s a form of body modification; so is exercise,” she says. “At what point does body modification become ‘taboo?’ To grow as people, we have to explore outside of our comfort zones,” Lindsay says.

She says she vividly recalls looking at her reflection in the mirror after getting her first big piece done. “There was an immediate shift in my perception of who I was and my ability to change that,” she remembers.

Working at the shop also made it more affordable for Lindsay to expand her body art. Because Hot Rod is renowned for its first-rate quality, it set the bar high for all of her future pieces. “It’s another form of collecting art,” Lindsay tells Weelunk. Indeed, she treats her investment accordingly, applying sunscreen to her skin daily to prevent fading.

THE JOURNEY OF MOTHERHOOD

Eventually, Lindsay became a certified E-RYT 200 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher with 200 hours of instruction) and SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) instructor. She received her certification through Yoga Alliance, a leading professional agency. She is also a YACEP (Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Professional). She quickly became a favorite instructor for local residents.

In 2006, Lindsay also became a mom to son Dryden, now 13. As every mama knows, motherhood is transformative in every sense of the word. This life-altering experience was no different for Lindsay, who says that giving birth to Dryden changed her mentally, physically and spiritually.

“My experience of completely natural childbirth with a birth plan I designed and the help of a midwife was empowering,” reveals Lindsay. Becoming a mother launched a journey of self-discovery, and she felt called to illustrate the enlightenment she was achieving with several more significant tattoos.

The first such special piece she had done following Dryden’s birth was a phrase in Latin script — “Amat victoria curam.” Translated to English, those words mean something between “Fortune favors those who take pains” and “Victory loves preparation.” Either translation accurately describes Lindsay’s approach to childbirth and becoming a mother.

Amat victoria curam — Fortune favors those who take pains.

Other pieces that Lindsay has acquired over the years include koi fish; cherry blossoms; logos dedicated to Bayside, a favorite band; the international recycling symbol; her lucky number 13; a large blue rose featuring a pair of female breasts blossoming within its petals; and a stunning piece that reads, “You Have to See the Beauty.”

Lindsay’s investment in artwork covers a large portion of her body, including her legs and feet.

Each tattoo is symbolic of a personal truth and represents a point in Lindsay’s journey from teenage college student to single mom to wife and business owner.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

Lindsay transferred from Marshall to West Liberty University and graduated with a degree in English and writing in 2004. In 2011, while intently focused on her work and her young son, Lindsay met Joshua Schooler. Neither Lindsay nor Joshua were looking for a relationship when mutual friends introduced them; nonetheless, love had other plans, and the pair would be married in a mountaintop ceremony the following year.

Josh and Lindsay

Joshua, a Kentucky native and owner/artist at Hemlock Knives, shares his wife’s love of tattoos. In homage to his family roots, Joshua has the phrase “My Old Kentucky Home” inked on his arm. He also boasts a half-sleeve of hemlock trees as a tribute to his knife-making business. In addition, he has the saying “To Endure” tattooed on his other arm over an old skin graft that was the result of a grisly car accident that he was fortunate to have survived.

Joshua honors his roots with his “Kentucky Home” piece, left, and a grove of hemlock trees is inked on his forearm as a tribute to his business.

In 2014, Lindsay was teaching yoga classes at West Liberty and working toward opening a studio of her own. It so happened that the WLU Center for Entrepreneurship, a collaborative venture between the school’s West College of Business and local business leaders that serves as a catalyst for the growth of small businesses, was sponsoring one of its Pitch Contests.

Members of the public with an idea for a small business were invited to “pitch” their idea to an audience and panel of judges, with the winning pitch taking home a cash grant as seed money. Lindsay took a leap of faith and entered. Happy Goat Yoga was already in the works, but Lindsay needed $2,500 to finalize the lease agreement on her new building in North Wheeling.

As fate would have it, she won the contest and was awarded exactly $2,500 as her prize. She viewed this as validation by the universe of her chosen path. While the cash award didn’t actually launch Happy Goat, Lindsay says gratefully that it allowed her to achieve her dream under far less stressful financial circumstances.

THE ROAD AHEAD 

Lindsay reveals that she has not gotten any new tattoos in over a decade now. The most recent ones are two tiny hearts on the backs of two of her fingers. The first of these hearts was done by a dear friend of hers named Daniel Ferrera in the old-school, traditional “tapping” style of tattooing. This heart was later touched up by another artist, Zane Leibowitz, who also added the second heart. Lindsay says that these two hearts represent “a commitment to myself — an “Eat, Pray, Love” sort of thing.”

“Thirteen is my lucky number, and I have stopped at 13 tattoos for now,” Lindsay says. “But I would like to get more hearts done in the future.” Perhaps as part of a family tattoo once Dryden is older? Time will tell.

For Lindsay, being tattooed is a way to feel fully “herself.” In fact, she says the bigger the artwork, the more connected to her inner being it feels.

“Big pieces represent big choices,” Lindsay says. She has suffered for years from chronic pain and finds her tattoos to be healing and therapeutic. “I see being tattooed as having agency over my own body and being in control of my pain perception,” she states.

Perception is everything, after all — it creates one’s reality. So wise is the woman who finds and honors the beauty in all things. Namaste.

• A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.

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